It all started when I downloaded a "Golden Girls" episode. I'm not really sure why I did. For chrissakes, there seemed like no matter when you turned on the TV, you could find "Golden Girls" on. I didn't even particularly like the show, except for the fact that it reminded me of college. Much the same way that there was always a "Golden Girls" episode on some channel, the TV was always tuned to that channel in someone's room on your floor. For me, "Golden Girls" meant college.
So I downloaded it, burned it to CD, along with all sorts of random crap: "Brisco County, Jr.", "Young Indiana Jones", "Gilligan's Island", "Family Matters", "Full House"- these TV shows that you remembered, even if you didn't like them (but who _couldn't_ like "Brisco County, Jr"? Heathens and philistines!). Over the years, which stretched into decades, I'd back things up, move to new storage media. I went from CDs to NV-RAM, from NV-RAM to holographic, from holographic to QSDs. I ended up forgetting most of what I had really, but I backed it up anyway.
When I recieved the official looking letter from the Television Producers Association, my heart skipped a beat. I'd been pirating for forty-years. I had unknown exabytes of stuff. They were finally suing me for filesharing. There hadn't been a suit for twenty years, most filesharing got special protections at this point. I checked the laws, but I must have missed something! I panicked, and with shaking hands, opened the envelope, and pulled out the letter.
It was on the letterhead of a law office. I panicked a bit more. "Dear Mr. Josephs," they began. They were writing to inform me that they tracked me down via monitoring software that my ISP installed. They had been tracking me for some time, and now...
...wished to write me a check for five million dollars. I remember when that was enough money for life; now it was a years salary for someone who had a decent job. I boggled for a moment. My panic was gone, replaced with screaming fear, going, "WHAT? WHY!" Yes, I was afraid of a $5million dollar check. It made no sense!
Without even finishing the letter, I dialed the contact number on the letter. A secretary appeared infront of me, "Barnum, Bauer and Driscoll, how may I help you?"
"Umm... yes, could I speak with," I glanced at the letter, "Mr. Bauer? It's Alvin Josephs"
"One moment please."
A moment later Mr. Bauer appeared before me, a small, pert androgyne in a smart suit. "Mr. Josephs, I see you got our letter."
"Yes, but I'm afraid that I'm confused, your client wants to _pay_ me, for fourty years of copyright violation?"
"Well, that's one way to put it." Bauer steepled his hands under his chin. "My client, TPA, has, over the years, been deeded copyrights to hundreds of television shows, ranging in age from 45 - 75 years old. Unfortunately, while they own the rights, they do not possess the material."
"What?" This wasn't being enlightening. "You mean, they lost the originals?"
"No, no, they never had the originals. They own the rights, and leased them back to the material holders. Unfortunately, most of the originals were never transfered to modern storage medial. Most are unusable, or simply nonexistant."
My mouth worked a moment, but I couldn't speak. "So they own the rights, but do not own the content? They got a bum deal, you mean!"
Bauer pursed his lips, trying not to let his annoyance show; even so, I could see that he had more interesting things to do than coach me through this. "Mr. Josephs, my client is interested in building a museum of television history. They have been thwarted in this by the disinterest of networks- old shows don't get ratings. They _do_ get piled on a shelf, left in a closet, and forgotten, except when there's a timeslot to fill. There's an entire field of content that has 'gone to seed', and is otherwise lost."
"Except for me."
He made a look that I read as, "Finally, he gets it!" He said, "Yes, exactly. The $5million dollars that you've been offered is meant as a payment for services rendered."
"Storage facilities, media updating. Archiving, organization. You possess over 80% of the media that my client is looking for."
My mind raced, this was incredible! And insulting! $5million for 40 years of archiving and storage? Ha! "No no, I want $15 million."
"May I remind you that my client still holds copyright on that material, even if the copyrights on some of it will be expiring soon, not so soon that we can't have this out in court. $7million is my client's final offer."
Damn, they had me over a barrell. But $7million was better than five, and five was better than jail or fines. "Done. How should I transfer control of the material?"
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
This was inspired by seeing "Golden Girls" shared on Suprnova. I saw it, and asked myself, "Why? It's not like its rare, or desireable? Is it?" I did remember back to college, when it was _always on_ in some room on the floor. No one really knew why they watched it, but they did.
Speaking of Suprnova, I'm downloading the latest episode of "Mad, Mad House". That show is... weird. Amusing. "Freak the Mundies" as a TV show concept... I still can't get over it.
In related news, in Chigago, a new exhibit opened, chronicling infomercial gadgets. I say related, because like "Golden Girls", this kitsch is part of our history. And like "Golden Girls", while it is kitsch, this stuff... well, we remember it, even if we don't like it. See, deliriumcrow is having a good influence on me- I think about how things relate to history, and even have an interest in preserving it- but with my heretical twist, I have this fondness for preserving that which most would happily forget. But the stuff we love to hate is right up there with the stuff that we want to remember in my mind.
There's a decadent beauty in those "As Seen on TV" products. Someone had an idea that made common tasks easier. Sure, the pitch makes us squirm and is even vaguely embarassing, but at the same time, there's a good idea there often. Fuck, next thing you know, I'll be advocating preserving old QVC broadcasts.